Eat London² By Peter Prescott & Terence Conran
Published by Conran Octopus
April 2012 – Price £20.00
The difficulty all restaurant guidebooks wrestle with is how to stay current and authoritative when the food industry is so mercurial. Eat London² hits that problem with its very first entry. Petersham Nurseries Cafe and Teahouse may have been run by the chef Sky Gyngell, ‘one of the top food personalities in London’, but, much to the disappointment of her fans and, presumably, the authors of this book, she’s now left. But this is where Eat London² plays such a clever, smart game. Published to coincide with the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, Eat London² shrewdly offers so much more than a guide to the capital’s great restaurants. Terence Conran and Peter Prescott recommend cafes, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers, food markets and – new to the guidebook game – pop-ups.
Atmospheric photographs by Lisa Linder and inventive recipes from the chefs of the restaurants featured, make this a good buy as a cookery book as well as a beautifully produced guidebook. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth getting for Rowley Leigh’s recipe for Parmesan Custard and Anchovy Toast alone. Having eaten his exquisite signature concoction at Le Cafe Anglais I’ve puzzled ever since exactly how to replicate it.
Terence Conran and Peter Prescott proudly admit this isn’t an ‘objective’ book. It’s their idiosyncratic view of what makes a great restaurant – ‘quirkiness, wonderful personalities, service, ambience, design, location…’ With recommendations from Twickenham to Brick Lane and Stoke Newington to Southwark, as well as fold-out maps for new visitors to London, it’s a perfect example of what a guidebook should be: beautiful in its own right and full of insights, personality and insider knowledge.
Hazan Family Favorites By Giuliano Hazan, Foreword by Marcella Hazan
Published by Stewart Tabori & Chang
May 2012 Price £19.99
Last night my teenage daughter embarked on a complicated dough recipe without checking how long the various stages would take to complete. With school the next morning, she was in bed and fast asleep hours before the dough was finally ready. I promised to finish the baking for her, but at 1 am, still applying the glaze to the admittedly beautiful buns, I was wondering why she couldn’t have opted for a plain old Victoria sponge instead.
Getting your timings wrong isn’t a mistake Giuliano Hazan would let you make. Each of his recipes starts with a brisk ‘time from start to finish’ guide and the instructions are both simple and concise. It’s a book that is characterised by the calm, capable charm that must make him such a reassuring tutor at the cooking school in Verona that he runs with his wife, Lael.
Hazan Family Favorites is as much a tribute to family as it is to food, filled as it is with photographs of Giuliano as a boy, his mother Marcella, his daughters and his wife. Each recipe is accompanied by Giuliano’s memories of eating it as a child, or watching one of his grandmothers cook it. He has a heritage that’s rich in food influences. His paternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews who settled in Italy and then fled to the United States. His maternal grandparents brought the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna to the table, along with Arab-influenced dishes from his grandmother’s time living in Egypt. The result is a style of cooking that is traditional and yet with a light, modern touch.
A test of any cookery book is do you want to head for the kitchen? I have an overwhelming desire to make Swiss Chard Tortelloni with Tomato sauce immediately. This is a book that I would give to someone who loves to cook, but who wants to become more confident and knowledgeable. At breakfast this morning, I presented my daughter with a plate of her time-consuming buns that I finally completed at 1.30 this morning, along with a copy of Hazan Family Favorites on the side. ‘Can you try cooking from this one next time?’ I asked.